PROVINCETOWN — Outer Cape native Oriana Conklin opened the doors to her newly purchased East End Market at 212 Bradford St. on March 11, 2022.
PROVINCETOWN — The winter storm that brought much of North America to a halt last week was also cruel in Provincetown, where the harbor was whipped into a violent flood by intense winds, low pressure, and an approaching astronomical high tide.
PROVINCETOWN — I was making sandwiches at my market when I heard the news that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade. I wanted to break down and cry, but there was chicken in the oven and there were slices of bread that required mayonnaise. As my mind spun, my coworker offered a way to shake the news off: “Oriana, take a minute, go outside. I got this.”
Instead, I took a shot of tequila and kept going. Except that I came close to tears each time a customer benignly asked me how my day was going. After the fourth or fifth such encounter it finally hit me: this is upsetting. I am upset, my coworkers are upset, and it is okay to be upset.
For the first time since I purchased the business, I shut the doors early and went home.
I grew up here on the Outer Cape. More specifically, I grew up in the Outer Cape’s service industry. Most of us here have worked at least one season as servers of one kind or another. But if you’re among the few deprived souls who have somehow avoided this character-building experience, you need to know that if there’s one thing it teaches you, it’s how to compartmentalize one’s rage.
This work teaches us that, when times get tough, you fake a smile and keep moving. Just keep swimming. “You think your world is ending? Well, sorry, Toots, but if that table of vacationers doesn’t get six piña coladas on the fly, you’ll see what the end of the world really looks like.”
There’s a certain numbness most of us develop to survive in this world. The way our ability to shelve our anger shapes our responses to reality may seem comical at times. But when it comes to this Supreme Court decision — and others that are going to affect the rest of our lives — I don’t want to feel numb. I want to stay angry. Because I want us to keep fighting.
I am scared. No — I am terrified. Since Friday, I’ve spent each night wondering what all this means, trying to figure out how to function in a society I am not an equal member of. I am looking at the bigger picture. This stripping of our rights may begin with abortion, but it is going to end someplace even darker.
But I am not just afraid: I am angry. I am angry that this legal decision will disproportionately affect the women who need our help the most. I am angry that my children will have fewer rights than me, fewer than their grandmother. And I am angry that we are expected to go on with our lives as if nothing has changed.
It is only reasonable to be angry. In fact, I encourage it. I am not advocating senseless rage or violence. I am defending the right to be upset, to be sad, to not be okay. Because, yes, we must keep swimming. But which direction we will go is up to us.
Oriana Conklin is the owner of the East End Market in Provincetown.
PROVINCETOWN — There were only one race for town office and five questions on the annual election ballot this year, but 1,354 people turned out to vote in one of the most hotly contested select board races in recent memory. Three women campaigned for one select board seat, and broke fundraising and turnout records in the process.
THE SELECT BOARD RACE
PROVINCETOWN — Oriana Conklin, 30, is running as a first-time candidate for select board. She believes she can bring some much-needed perspective: if elected, she said, she would be the youngest person on the board by almost 20 years, the only person of color (she is Japanese-American), and the only restaurant worker.
“Restaurant workers are the backbone of this community and our voices aren’t being heard,” Conklin said. Many in hospitality worked through the pandemic, she said, “to help people feel almost normal for a few hours.” But, she added, “it became clear there were not enough support groups or clinicians for the workers to turn to for support.” Conklin noted the town’s health dept. is developing plans to improve the situation, and she’d like to see the select board help move those along.
Her father, Tom Conklin, moved to Provincetown in the 1970s and started Tumbleweed Connection, a head shop and record store. Her mother, Tara Conklin, has retired from a career as a special education teacher in the local schools.
When Conklin was born, her family moved to Wellfleet. A graduate of Nauset Regional High School and Emmanuel College, she’s been working at restaurants in Boston and on the Cape for over 16 years. Her first job was at the Wicked Oyster in Wellfleet. Now, she serves as the general manager for Local 186 restaurant and Enzo Guest House, which are in the same building on Commercial Street.
“Where do I even begin?” Conklin said when asked about her ideas on affordable housing. “It is really hard to put roots down here and get involved in community when your housing situation is not secure and you’re constantly moving between temporary summer and winter places.” More people, she believes, are coming to recognize that this is “absolutely a crisis.”
Conklin has some ideas about remedies, though. “As long as people in town support it,” she said, “I would propose that we build a two- or three-story parking garage in the back of Grace Hall. If we do that, we can use some of the rest of that land to build housing. It’s already developed. We’re not taking any unused space.”
Another move that could improve the housing crisis, Conklin said, would be the expansion of the town’s wastewater treatment system.
Housing isn’t the only issue Conklin is interested in. Lack of equitable internet access is, in her view, another factor preventing Provincetown from being an accessible, viable year-round community.
“Internet access is a human right,” she said. “We should have municipally-owned internet access.” Town-wide internet access would, Conklin said, help level the playing field and also make Provincetown a more attractive year-round location for people working remote jobs, a phenomenon that she believes is likely to continue even after the pandemic.
Conklin is also concerned about the Outer Cape’s fragile environment. “The coastline has changed so much just since I was growing up,” she said. Two and a half years on Provincetown’s conservation commission has given her insights, she said, into the work of flood prevention and dune restoration.
Conklin wants to see a new police station built. “But we need to build consensus on what that plan is going to be,” she said, as she rolled up her sleeves.
When we do have that new police station, Conklin thinks that Provincetown can work to change its policing practices. “We have a chance here to really redesign what we want to see out of our police department,” she said.
The goal, she said, should be to make policing more about fostering healthy and helpful relationships with community members. “There should be a mental health clinician on site at the station,” she said. “There are so many calls to the station, and you don’t need a police officer for all of them. It’s a waste of resources. Anything aimed at crisis de-escalation, I am 100 percent for.”
As for the Provincetown Fire Dept., Conklin stated that she is against regionalization: “We need firefighters to be able to be at an emergency at the drop of a hat.” She said that, while Provincetown has one of the best departments she knows, its reputation is threatened by the numbers of people who are forced to move out of town due to increasingly unaffordable rents.
“I hate to repeat myself,” Conklin said, “but it really is housing first.”
“We need to incentivize people to stay in town,” she said. “Our friends and neighbors are moving out. When that keeps happening, what you have is a crisis of community.”
Candidate Conklin’s campaign website is orianaconklin.com.
PROVINCETOWN — Select board member Lise King, 56, will have two challengers in the May 11 annual town election. Leslie Sandberg, 58, a partner in the communications firm Rose, Sandberg & Associates, and Oriana Conklin, 30, a manager at Local 186 restaurant and Enzo guesthouse, are also on the ballot. Nomination petitions were due by Tuesday, March 23.
In most years there are two seats up for election on the five-member select board, but in every third year there is only one on the ballot. King was first elected to that seat in 2018 and is now seeking her second three-year term.
Sandberg has worked as a communications director or publicist for the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, for state Sen. Julian Cyr, for the Provincetown Public Pier Corp., and currently has a contract to do communications work for the Provincetown Health Dept. and for the town of Eastham.
Conklin serves on the Provincetown Conservation Commission and has worked in Provincetown restaurants since she was 14. She graduated from Emmanuel College in Boston.
King’s career includes founding and running the Native Voice newspaper in South Dakota, documentary filmmaking in New England, and earning a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard. On the select board, she spearheaded the creation of an economic stabilization and sustainability committee.
The three women have seven weeks to campaign for votes.
No challengers filed for the other races on this year’s town ballot. Mary Jo Avellar is running for re-election as town moderator, Ann Wood is running for re-election to the housing authority, and both Eva Enos and Ngina Lythcott are running for re-election to the school committee. Julia Perry is running for an open seat on the charter compliance commission. —Paul Benson